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"I don't think the report is true, but these crises work for those who want to make fights between people." Kulam Dastagir, 28, a bird seller in Afghanistan

Eric Garner, criminalized to death - The Washington Post
Topic: Miscellaneous 11:22 pm EST, Dec 10, 2014

The scandal of mass incarceration is partly produced by the frivolity of the political class, which uses the multiplication of criminal offenses as a form of moral exhibitionism. This, like Eric Garner’s death, is a pebble in the mountain of evidence that American government is increasingly characterized by an ugly and sometimes lethal irresponsibility.

George Will seems to be optimistic that something is going to change. I wish that I shared his optimism. I do not.

Eric Garner, criminalized to death - The Washington Post


Chris Rock Stopped Performing for Students Because Everything Offends Them - Hit & Run : Reason.com
Topic: Miscellaneous 11:28 pm EST, Dec  1, 2014

I stopped playing colleges, and the reason is because they’re way too conservative.

In their political views?

Not in their political views — not like they’re voting Republican — but in their social views and their willingness not to offend anybody. Kids raised on a culture of “We’re not going to keep score in the game because we don’t want anybody to lose.” Or just ignoring race to a fault. You can’t say “the black kid over there.” No, it’s “the guy with the red shoes.” You can’t even be offensive on your way to being inoffensive.

When did you start to notice this?

About eight years ago. Probably a couple of tours ago. It was just like, This is not as much fun as it used to be. I remember talking to George Carlin before he died and him saying the exact same thing.

Chris Rock Stopped Performing for Students Because Everything Offends Them - Hit & Run : Reason.com


Reading between the lines of the UK leadership's call for mass surveillance.
Topic: Miscellaneous 3:17 pm EST, Nov 28, 2014

This is how the case for mass surveillance is being made in the UK.

Facebook is used by millions in the UK, but they paid not a single penny in UK tax in 2012.

First, a cheap shot. Does the UK expect every website in the world that their citizens use to pay them taxes?!

Even worse, they refuse to recognise UK legislation requiring them to provide our agencies with the content of communications on their networks when served with a UK interception warrant.

Then, a lie. Of course Facebook responds to UK intercept warrants.

The problem that this story is complaining about is the fact that Facebook doesn't perform mass monitoring of the content of private communications between users and report those conversations to the authorities.

As we have seen with the killers of Lee Rigby, this stance can have disastrous consequences.

Apparently the killers of Lee Rigby discussed their extremism in private conversations on Facebook.

Facebook and the other providers like to defend their non-compliance with excuses about the need to protect privacy and maintain the rights of their users. But this kind of pseudo-libertarianism is profoundly unconvincing.

After all, in cases of child pornography and exploitation, these internet companies are only too willing to pass on information to law enforcement authorities. So why is the same logic not applied to terrorist activities, where innocent lives are also at stake?

Indeed Mark Field MP, a member of the Commons Intelligence and Security Committee, has rightly said this week that ‘if Adebowale had been preparing a paedophile attack, not a terrorist one, the authorities would have been alerted’.

Internet companies like Google and Facebook monitor the content of private communications for file transfers, and they check the hashes of those files against a list of known child porn images for matches. This practice is defended based on its narrowness, but it raises a variety of concerns, and you're looking at one of them. Once you pierce the veil of private conversations and start reporting their content to the government, you open up a slippery slope that many people are eager to slide down. If Google and Facebook monitor private conversations for this one thing, then people might ask why they don't monitor those conversations for other things. General searches of language that seems extremist is much more broad than file hash comparisons for known child pornography, and much more prone to false positives and misinterpretations.

If Facebook and Google are shamed into complying with this kind of demand, they will have to set up an infrastructure for sifting through everyone's private conversations and flagging discussions for police based on their content. Once that system is established, there is no limit to the purposes for which it might be put. This will be the end of the sanctity of private communications.

Reading between the lines of the UK leadership's call for mass surveillance.


Invest in a second passport | GulfNews.com
Topic: Miscellaneous 12:15 am EST, Nov 21, 2014

“The popularity (of citizenship-by-investment programs) has been on the rise for the past few years,” says Munaf Ali, CEO of Range Developments. 

Invest in a second passport | GulfNews.com


The End of the Snowden Affair
Topic: Miscellaneous 10:08 am EST, Nov 19, 2014

This will mark the moment, in retrospect, when any real hope of meaningful surveillance reform died.

The End of the Snowden Affair


The good news about the 'death' of NSA reform: surveillance supporters may have dug their own grave | Trevor Timm | Comment is free | The Guardian
Topic: Miscellaneous 9:44 am EST, Nov 19, 2014

The failure of the USA Freedom Act, no matter how incomplete the bill was, certainly isn’t something to celebrate. But now we will see multiple courts potentially ruling NSA surveillance unconstitutional. Now we will have a chance to force the government into potentially gutting key provisions of the Bush-era Patriot Act...

I think this is overly optimistic. I think support for renewing Section 215 of the Patriot Act will magically appear in the next 6 months.

The good news about the 'death' of NSA reform: surveillance supporters may have dug their own grave | Trevor Timm | Comment is free | The Guardian


The Senate rejected a bill to limit NSA spying. Here's what you need to know. - Vox
Topic: Miscellaneous 8:46 pm EST, Nov 18, 2014

41 Republicans voted in opposition, enough to block supporters from reaching the 60 votes they needed to end debate on the legislation

I'm surprised.

Either, they think they won't loose in court, or they want to.

The Senate rejected a bill to limit NSA spying. Here's what you need to know. - Vox


The purpose of the USA Freedom Act is to manage public perceptions.
Topic: Miscellaneous 3:05 pm EST, Nov 17, 2014

The USA Freedom Act will likely be passed in the next few days or weeks. Its important to understand the over-arching purpose here - which is management of public perceptions.

The Whitehouse wants the public to think that the NSA never did anything wrong, and that Edward Snowden is a punk who violated his oath to protect national secrets. Perception IS reality, so maintaining that narrative is the most important priority.

The problem is that Edward Snowden's disclosures have created a situation where the Whitehouse is going to have to answer for the NSA's activities in a court of law, and they stand a considerable risk of losing those lawsuits, because there are a variety of pretty strong arguments that the NSA programs in question are not lawful.

So, the Whitehouse set out to preempt that process, by appointing a blue ribbon President's Review Group staffed with notable academics to take a look at the situation and make policy recommendations. I must admit that I was originally surprised when the President's Review Group recommended that the mass metadata collection program be shut down, but in retrospect it makes sense now.

The Whitehouse needs to moot the lawsuits, because they can't lose in court. If they lose in court, they'll lose control of the narrative. It will be clear that the NSA did something illegal.

The recommendations of the Presidents Review Group buttress the USA Freedom Act. When Congress passes it, the program will be shut down. If the program has been shut down, the lawsuits are moot. If the lawsuits are moot, the Whitehouse won't lose in court. If the Whitehouse doesn't lose in court, then it can continue to claim that the NSA never violated the law, and only people who are very savvy will know better.

The USA Freedom Act is being passed in a lame duck session, which seems to imply that politicians who plan to vote in favor of it didn't want to have to explain their votes on the campaign trail. Perhaps they didn't want to be accused of being soft on terror, but on the other hand, the only way to respond to that allegation is to say, to the voters, that you supported the bill because you thought that balance needed to be restored. If the NSA didn't do anything wrong, then why does balance have to be restored?

I don't think the powers that be wanted this conversation to be a part of the political dialog at all. Thats why it hasn't come up on the campaign trail - even with people like Mark Udall. Despite the deafening complaints out of the left about the Patriot Act leading up the 2008 election and the fact that their loss in this midterm election makes NSA reform slightly more difficult, they didn't make an issue out of it, and its not as if they were afraid to criticize the President, so they weren't holding back for the benefit of his image. The were holding back for the benefit of the NSA.

The USA Freedom Act will pass. The program will be shut down. The lawsuits will be moot and they'll get tossed out. The narrative will be that the NSA never violated the law. The narrative will be that Edward Snowden is a punk. The Whitehouse will control the narrative. Thats what they do.


The 5 biggest myths about the 2014 election - Vox
Topic: Miscellaneous 2:57 pm EST, Nov 12, 2014

The last five elections… show an electorate that seems to be searching for something it cannot find.

The 5 biggest myths about the 2014 election - Vox


Why Libertarianism is bullshit.
Topic: Miscellaneous 2:08 pm EST, Nov 12, 2014

Although I think that the Cato Institute does valuable policy analysis work, there is a reason that Libertarianism doesn't work as a political movement, and its not just because the cards are stacked against them. Its because they aren't what they claim to be.

Politically savvy people are usually familiar with the chart that I'm embedding in this post, which presents Libertarianism as being orthogonal to the normal left-right political divide. If this were true, the Libertarian movement would attract participation from anti-authoritarians on both the left and the right side of the political spectrum. Likewise, when Libertarians "cut a deal with the devil" and get behind mainstream political candidates, you'd expect there to be some semblance of balance between the candidates they chose to support - some being Republicans and some being Democrats.

However, this isn't what happens in practice. In practice, mainstream candidates that Libertarians get behind are consistently Republican candidates, and Libertarians are quick to rationalize that although these Republicans, like Rand Paul, may support some policy choices that Libertarians oppose, their success is important to the overall cause.

On the other hand, Libertarians don't seem to support Democrats under any circumstances, even ones who have proven track records of fighting for important individual liberties. In the most recent midterm election, Democratic Senator Mark Udall, an outspoken opponent of mass domestic surveillance by the NSA, lost his seat to a Republican challenger. What do Libertarian's think about this? Well, if the comments on Reason's blog offer any evidence, they are overjoyed! Here are a couple of examples of the responses that Reason received when they suggested that Udall's loss might be a bad thing, although you can follow the link for more.

While I have very low expectations for a GOP Congress, I have even lower ones if the Senate remains in the hands of the state-adoring Democrats. At least some Republicans want to stop the madness. And if they're willing to turn the heat up on this administration, then I'll be even happier.

Why?

So he raises some fuss in Committee - so what? He'll also vote for Harry Reid as Majority Leader, ensuring no meaningful legislation. He'll spend and tax and grab guns at every chance.

Are you f**king kidding me Reason????!!! Seriously WTF?!!

This is the guy that want's to scrap the f... [ Read More (0.4k in body) ]


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